Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are the cover stars of Time magazine's 2021 list of the 100 most influential people on the planet in a feature that includes an 'awkward' photoshoot and a gushing tribute from a friend who praises them for 'giving a voice to the voiceless' and 'running toward the struggle' rather than living a quiet life in their California mansion.
The US publication released a glossy and heavily-airbrushed cover on Harry's 37th birthday showing the Duke of Sussex stood behind his wife with his arms on her right shoulder in the 'icons' section of the annual line-up alongside Naomi Osaka, Dolly Parton, Britney Spears and Alexei Navalny.
One critic claimed the cover photo reflected the power dynamic in the relationship, because Meghan is in front of her husband, tweeting: 'Wow, this photo speaks volumes. There is no hiding who's in control'. But Time's picture editor, Dilys Ng, who made the final decision on the cover image, said today that the portrait captures the Sussexes' 'powerful dynamic as equal partners'.
The glossy photos of the Sussexes are accompanied by a profile, branded sycophantic by critics, written by their friend and chef José Andrés, whose charity World Central Kitchen is loved by the Sussexes and supported financially by their Archewell foundation in India and the Caribbean.
He wrote: 'In a world where everyone has an opinion about people they don't know, the duke and duchess have compassion for the people they don't know. They don't just opine. They run toward the struggle.' Mr Andres said the couple are 'blessed through birth and talent, and burned by fame', adding: 'It would be much safer to enjoy their good fortune and stay silent. That's not what Harry and Meghan do, or who they are'.
On the cover Harry is dressed in all black and Meghan in all white on a terrace at their $14.65million mansion and then in green smiling at eachother and holding hands while walking through their estate in Montecito, California.
In another image they are in matching grey office-style clothes next to a window in outfits chosen by celebrity stylists Clare and Nina Hallwroth, who have recently dressed Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, in pictures taken by Serbian Pari Dukovic. But one critic, a fellow photographer, tweeted: 'Terrible retouching job. They look CGI'.
Others wrote: 'This photo looks photoshopped. Also, the way they are positioned is very revealing: it's the Meghan show and Harry is just the supporting actor'. One critic said: 'Harry looks completely awkward peering behind his wife like this'.
Harry and Meghan have agreed to be the cover stars of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people - with this new image released accompanied by a gushing profile
Harry and Meghan smile as their walk through their Californian estate in a photoshoot branded 'awkward' and 'photoshopped'
In another image they are in matching grey office-style clothes next to a window in outfits chosen by celebrity stylists Clare and Nina Hallwroth, who have recently dressed Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston
Mr Andres describes the famous incident when Harry was serving in Afghanistan for the British Army, when he was forced to run to his Apache helicopter when his airbase came under fire.
He wrote: 'That same sense of urgency drives Meghan, now the Duchess of Sussex, who has long been an active humanitarian and a powerful advocate for women and girls around the world. Springing into action is not the easy choice for a young duke and duchess who have been blessed through birth and talent, and burned by fame. That's not what Harry and Meghan do, or who they are.
'They turn compassion into boots on the ground through their Archewell Foundation. They give voice to the voiceless through media production. Hand in hand with nonprofit partners, they take risks to help communities in need—offering mental-health support to Black women and girls in the U.S., and feeding those affected by natural disasters in India and the Caribbean.
'In a world where everyone has an opinion about people they don't know, the duke and duchess have compassion for the people they don't know. They don't just opine. They run toward the struggle'.
There is no mention of Harry and Meghan's rift with the Royal Family or the series of bombshell interviews including the one with Oprah where they accused a mystery royal of racism towards Archie and said aides ignored Meghan when she was pregnant and suicidal.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle celebrated their third wedding anniversary in May by revealing plans to build a disaster relief centre in India to help battle Covid-19 and 'heal' the virus-ravaged nation in their tie up with José Andrés' World Central Kitchen.
The building in Mumbai will be based on the blueprint of one the couple's Archewell foundation has already built on the Caribbean island of Dominica, where locals can get free food and medical care including a coronavirus vaccination.
Harry's family put their problems aside as the Queen sent best wishes to Prince Harry on his 37th birthday, sharing a selection of photos highlighting her grandson's charity efforts while he was a working royal.
Poignantly, Prince Charles shared throwback photos with his younger son, amid a rift that Harry made public during his bombshell interview with Oprah.
Meanwhile, Prince William and Kate Middleton kept their message simple, posting a solo portrait of the Duke with the caption: 'Happy birthday Prince Harry,' and a red balloon emoji.
It's not known how the Duke will celebrate his birthday, but Meghan recently marked her 40th with her own endeavor - the 40x40 project - in which she asked high profile people to commit to giving 40 minutes of their time to support women going back to work.
The birthday wishes come after Finding Freedom author Omid Scobie - who penned the biography with Carolyn Durand and released an updated version last month - said Duke and Duchess of Sussex are 'making very little progress' in reconciling with the royal family.
He said Prince Harry and Meghan were 'desperate to get their story out there' when they gave their explosive Oprah Winfrey interview earlier this year.
Appearing on Good Morning America today, Omid claimed the couple and the royal family both want all involved to take 'accountability and ownership' for their role in the rift.
The Time 100 stars listed with Harry and Meghan
Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex
- The couple 'turn compassion into boots on the ground through their Archewell foundation', according to chef and the founder of World Central Kitchen Jose Andres.
- Tennis star won last year's US Open and participated in protests in Minneapolis before prioritising her mental health.
- The Russian opposition leader was jailed last year and has been a thorn in Vladimir Putin's side for decades.
- 'She's survived more than a decade of trauma and abuse from her conservatorship', writes Paris Hilton, yet still 'embodies joy'.
- A lawyer whose 'advocacy creates paths for the unconvinced to understand things they have overlooked—and that may be the real genius of her leadership and skill,' writes Bryan Stevenson.
- Country music star has 'diligently celebrated the queer community', says Miley Cyrus, as well as donating $1million to Covid-19 vaccine research.
- A Japanese baseball pitcher who has been described as the best player this year.
Cathy Park Hong
- A poet who has published three volumes focusing on mixed language including English, Spanish, French and Korean.
Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara
- A Cuba-born performance artist who has openly criticised the government and its policies.
- An Iranian human rights lawyer who has represented opposition activists and politicians.
Manjusha P. Kulkarni, Russell Jeung and Cynthia Choi
- The Stop AAPI Hate co-founders work together to combat a rise in Asian hate speech.
Muna El-Kurd and Mohammed El-Kurd
- 23-year-old siblings who have become social media stars with more than two million followers.
- Award-winning 19-year-old singer-songwriter is the 26th highest certified digital artist.
- Benjamin Lloyd Crump is an American attorney who specializes in civil rights and catastrophic personal injury cases such as wrongful death lawsuits.
- An Indonesian public health researcher who works on disease control of dengue fever.
- The artistic gymnast was a 2020 Olympic all-around champion and uneven bars bronze medallist.
Felwine Sarr and Benedicte Savoy
- Economist Sarr and art historian Savoy proposed objects obtained through colonial-era theft be returned in 2018.
- A Turkish economist and energy expert who has served as the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency since September 2015.
- Founder of the fashion label Brother Vellies, with the goal of promoting traditional African design practices and techniques.
- Chief executive officer (CEO) of Serum Institute of India. Founded in 1966 by his father, Cyrus Poonawalla, it is the world's largest vaccine manufacturer by number of doses produced.
- Dubbed the ‘East African Erin Brockovich’, Omido is a Kenyan environmental activist.
- A Dutch politician and diplomat serving as First Vice President of the European Commission since 2014.
Indyra Mendoza and Claudia Spellmant
- Activists and LGBTQ+ women who spent years working to demand justice for Vicky Hernández – a transgender woman found dead in the street in Honduras in 2009.
- Partner at the Dutch law firm Paulussen Advocaten wrote a book calling for judicial intervention to save the planet.
Olimpia Coral Melo Cruz
- A Mexican activist who promoted the creation of a law against digital harassment in Mexico.
- A scholar and activist focusing on gender and sexualities.
Esther Ze Naw Bamvo And Ei Thinzar Maung
- Lead the first large-scale protests against the coup in Yangon.
- American business executive who has been the chief executive officer of Apple Inc. since 2011.
- Showrunner—creator, head writer, and executive producer—of the television medical drama Grey's Anatomy.
Timbaland and Swizz Beatz
- Creators of Verzuz, an American webcast series that airs on Verzuz TV and was introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic as a virtual DJ battle.
- Nikole Sheri Hannah-Jones is an American investigative journalist, known for her coverage of civil rights in the United States.
- An American football quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the National Football League.
Youn Yuh Jung
- A South Korean actress whose career in film and television spans across five decades.
- American track and field athlete who specialized in the 200 meters sprint and gradually shifted to the 400 meters sprint later in her career.
- A Beninese singer-songwriter, actress, and activist who is noted for her diverse musical influences and creative music videos. She has been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 2002.
Kenneth C. Frazier and Kenneth I. Chenault
- OneTen co-founders are fighting against legislation that critics say is designed to make it harder for minorities to cast ballots.
- A Brazilian billionaire businesswoman who is chair of the retailer Magazine Luiza and associated companies.
- A British actress often regarded by film critics as one of the ‘preeminent actresses of her generation’.
- A Puerto Rican rapper, singer, and songwriter whose music is often defined as Latin trap and reggaeto.
- A Chinese-born filmmaker known primarily for her work on independent films.
- An American actor, comedian, writer, and producer who began his career in improv comedy in the early 1990s.
- An American actress and singer who was the world's highest-paid actress in 2018 and 2019.
Lil Nas X
- An American rapper and singer-songwriter who rose to prominence with the release of his country rap single ‘Old Town Road’.
Jessica B. Harris
- An American culinary historian, college professor, cookbook author and journalist.
- An Australian-born Chinese American actor, comedian, podcaster, and writer based in New York City.
Tracee Ellis Ross
- An American actress, singer, television host, producer and director known for her lead roles in the television series Girlfriends and Black-ish.
- An American artist best known for his collaged painting works, which have been shown internationally.
- An American science fiction and fantasy writer, better known as N. K. Jemisin who has also worked as a counselling psychologist.
- An American actor and producer who initially rose to prominence for his roles as Glenn Rhee in the television series The Walking Dead and Ben in the film Burning.
- Ugandan-British actor and former writer who portrayed Posh Kenneth in the first two seasons of the British television series Skins.
- A French actor, best known for his sketches with Fred Testot on the Service après-vente des émissions television show.
- A conceptual artist whose work consists of black-and-white photographs overlaid with declarative captions.
- A singer and songwriter who first gained popularity through social media.
Meghan and Harry appeared on Oprah to drop 'truth bombs' on the Royal Family
Prince William and Kate Middleton kept their message simple, posting a solo portrait of the Duke with the caption: 'Happy birthday Prince Harry,' and a red balloon emoji
The Queen has led birthday wishes to Prince Harry on his 37th birthday, sharing a selection of photos highlighting her grandson's charity efforts while he was a working royal
The Royal family shared a picture of Harry visiting a school in Nottingham in 2019, where he as on an away-day to meet young people at community projects aimed at improving mental well-being
The Queen also shared a portrait shot of Harry, who is 'making very little progress' in reconciling with the royal family according to Finding Freedom author Omid Scobie
The Royal Family shared a picture of Harry meeting a child in Botswana in September, 2019 during a visit to the Kasane Health Post, run by the Sentebale charity, in Kasane
The Queen posted an image of Harry and Meghan at the Invictus Games in 2018 in their last engagement in Australia before heading to New Zealand
Prince Charles and Camilla also wished the duke a Happy Birthday amid a rift that Harry made public during his bombshell interview earlier this year
Poignantly, Prince Charles shared throwback photos with his younger son, amid a rift that Harry made public during his bombshell interview with Oprah - including a portrait of his son
The Prince of Wales is pictured with Prince Harry leaving their mark in cement, at the Dukuduku village school in South Africa in 1997
The Duke of Sussex and his father are pictured sharing a sweet moment at the Invictus Games Opening Ceremony in September 2014
He explained: 'When we speak to sources close to the couple and also sources close to the royal family, there is this feeling that very little progress is being made.'
Meanwhile Scobie also suggested allegations of Meghan's bullying behaviour made by a senior Palace aide before the Oprah Winfrey interview were 'revenge' from The Firm for the Duke and Duchess' actions.
The Sussexes were accused of leaving behind a 'lot of broken people' with 'young women broken by their behaviour' and a source describing one member of their staff as 'completely destroyed' by the ordeal.
Scobie said: 'For me, it's impossible to come to any other conclusion that this is some sort of revenge from the institution that we saw pulled into action just before the Oprah interview came out.'
The Queen launched an unprecedented inquiry into allegations that Meghan and Harry bullied their staff earlier this year - leaving royal employees 'shaken' by 'unhappy memories' being brought up about a 'toxic period' before the couple emigrated.
Devastating claims that the Duchess of Sussex inflicted 'emotional cruelty' on underlings and 'drove them out' were 'very' concerning, Buckingham Palace said.
Prince Charles' birthday wishes come after a source claimed that Duchess of Cornwall is unlikely to ever forgive her stepson Prince Harry for their actions since stepping back as senior royals in March last year.
Harry has addressed his relationship with his father in several interviews throughout the year - after first opening up about it in a bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey in March where he claimed he has been 'let down' by Prince Charles.
The Duke, 37, and Duchess of Sussex, 40, are 'making very little progress' in reconciling with the royal family, the author of Finding Freedom has claimed
Speaking to The Telegraph, royal expert Camilla Tominey reported that a source close to Camilla has said that even though Buckingham Palace is conveying the message that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are still loved by the family, the Duchess of Cornwall will struggle to move on.
Another source claimed that Prince Charles was deeply affected by the reported fall out with Prince Harry and that it had been 'really hard for him.'
Meanwhile Prince William and Harry are said to have barely spoken and have an 'incredibly strained' relationship after two years of rows over Harry's wife and her alleged treatment of staff, the couple's decision to emigrate to America and the 'truth bombs' the Sussexes have dropped in TV interviews watched by tens of millions of people around the world.
Harry and Meghan believe they were abandoned by the Royals, even accusing them of racism towards Archie and ignoring their cries for help when the Duchess of Sussex felt lonely and suicidal while pregnant in London.
An updated edition of Harry and Meghan biography Finding Freedom also made a string of other fresh claims that are likely to trigger debate about the state of their relationship with the Royal Family.
Richard Fitzwilliams believes Harry could launch a charitable initiative on his upcoming 37th birthday - and has warned the royal to 'watch what he says' on his birthday
A leaked version of the epilogue claimed the couple had considered naming the royal they alleged had made a racist comment about their son, Archie; that some royals were 'quietly pleased' the Duchess of Sussex missed Prince Philip's funeral and that Prince William was 'furious' about their interview with Oprah.
The new edition also said the Sussexes had 'no regrets' about quitting their royal roles and that Meghan found her explosive Oprah interview 'cathartic' and 'liberating'.
Meghan plunged the monarchy into crisis after telling Oprah Winfrey that an unnamed royal had expressed 'concern' about Archie's skin before he was born.
The epilogue reveals that a source told authors Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand that the Sussexes had considered naming the family member – but had ultimately decided not to.
It also claimed that 'sources close to the Sussexes' had said that the Royal Family's reaction to the allegations made by the couple 'was not positive'.